SUNGAI SIPUT,. The residents of four Orang Asli villages in Pos Kuala Mu here are distressed with logging activities which are hampering their livelihoods.
The Orang Asli in the affected villages said they have lost their forest source due to logging, and the 28-km road which connects the villages to the nearest town has been damaged by heavy lorries that carry the logs.
The natives from Kampung Toh, Kampung Kuala Mu, Kampung Bersah and Kampung Batu Kaper further alleged that the land clearance have also destroyed the wildlife path.
“Most of the Orang Asli here depend on the forest source for their income, but the logging activities had destroyed it,” Kampung Toh village chief Jamal Ngah, 42, who represents the Orang Asli community, told reporters.
To make ends meet, Jamal said the villagers, especially the younger generation, had started to go into the eco-tourism business, by building chalets which are environment-friendly.
“However, the road which leads to the villages has been damaged by heavy lorries that carry the logs. The loggers also cleared several small portions along the road to stock up the logs, which are then transported by lorry.
“This has caused the road to be flooded when it rains, as the drain is filled with rocks and mud following the clearance,” he said.
“It is not only a trouble for us, but also for the visitors who want to visit our chalets. The road is small and not suitable for heavy lorries. More damages to the road will only hinder visitors to our village and eventually we will lose our income,” he added.
Jamal also said the State Forestry Department had imposed a blockade on the road and requested visitors to apply for permits before entering the Orang Asli villages as they claim the area is still under the Korbu Forest Reserve.
“The sudden move from the forestry department is very suspicious. Why are they not allowing the public to visit the place freely all of a sudden? It is because they are trying to hide the logging activity, we don’t know.
“Before this, no permit was needed to visit our villages and in fact, this is the first time we are experiencing such blockade,” he added.
Reporters and environmental non-governmental organisations were also stopped by the forestry department officers from entering the villages.
The officers also failed to show any documents in conducting the checks and blockade. After an hour of arguing, they were finally allowed to enter provided that their information from the identification card is recorded.
Jamal said the villagers had confronted the logging company and the forestry department over the logging issue for several times.
“The loggers said they have licenses to operate and that they were sanctioned by the previous government. The representative from the state government said that we could not stop the logging as it provides revenue for the state and they need compensate the loggers if they want to stop.
“The forestry department said that they will fix the road after the logging activity ends next month since they claim the road is under the forest reserve. However, nothing was said formally, it was only through verbal agreement,” he said.
“But the question now is could the forestry department really fix the road? The road was constructed by the Ministry of Rural Development at the cost of RM16 million in 2016. Who is going to bear the repair cost?” he asked.
Jamal hopes that the current government will limit the logging activities near their villages and requested that heavy lorries not use the stretch as it damaged public facilities.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil pressed the state government to look into the matter and help the Orang Asli.
“The Orang Asli community here has started an eco-tourism business with their own initiative. The state government should be proud and support them, not impose a blockade which could affect their business,” she said.
Shariffa also said the logging activities need to be halted immediately as it could destroy the beauty of the Pos Kuala Mu and its surroundings.
Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman urged the government to limit the logging activities, after saying it could affect the socioeconomic situation of the Orang Asli community there.
“The state government should not approve licenses for all the logging activities just to reach its yearly 6,000 hectare quota for logging trees.
“They should conduct a thorough investigation, whether it will affect the villagers who live near the area, before approving it,” he said.